ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The line outside the William E. and Ann L. Swan Business Center started around noon. People waited with family, friends and fellow Buffalo Bills fans for the chance to meet NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.
“I’ve been a season ticket holder for 30 years, and when he came into the scene, it was one of the greatest things for Buffalo,” Arthur Smith of Tonawanda said.
Saturday, the 11-season quarterback, who led the team to four-straight National Football League championships, was at St. Bonaventure for a dual purpose. It began with the meet-and-greet and signing of autographs and ended with Kelly's being the honorary captain of the men's basketball game against the University of Richmond.
For Smith and the other fans in line, a moment with the Bills legend was worth the trip to St. Bonaventure. People came from nearby towns such as Olean and from areas such as Buffalo and Syracuse to get pictures and autographs. Parents brought their children to meet Kelly, making the afternoon a time for family bonding.
“I wanted to pay tribute to him,” Ahmad Buiney of Buffalo said. “I’ve been a Bills fan for a long time, and there has not been anyone like him.”
Buiney's admiration of Kelly is not about the wins. It is about Kelly's leadership, about his taking the team to the championship. It is a legacy passed down to generations of Bills fans, he said.
Because of time restrictions, around 5:15 p.m. security turned people away, despite their long waits in the line. Kelly needed to the Reilly Center for the game that began at 6:30.
Later in the evening, during the post-game press conference, Bonnie's basketball coach Mark Schmidt commented on Kelly's visit.
"It's great that he came and signed autographs," Schmidt said. "The relationship that we have with the Bills is really good. Hopefully, more Bills will come to our games."
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